Asking questions before, during, and after reading comes very naturally to skilled readers, but for struggling readers, this skill can be just the opposite. Asking questions of varying depths is arguably the most important reading comprehension strategy we should teach and practice often with our students.
WHY IS ASKING QUESTIONS AN IMPORTANT READING STRATEGY?
Asking questions helps students to:
- Set a purpose before reading and have a clear focus for diving into a text.
- Activate background knowledge before reading.
- Monitor their own comprehension and clarify any misunderstandings while reading.
- Make predictions before, during and after reading.
- Analyze and question the author through an internal dialogue with the author.
- Pave the road to use even more reading strategies that improve comprehension. For example, asking questions during reading can help students draw conclusions, make inferences, or continually make predictions.
- See that one source might not have all the answers. This helps them to realize that learning about a topic in depth can be a more complex process than just reading piece of text.
Below are 5 ways teachers can practice the asking questions strategy with their growing readers.
1. TEACHER THINK ALOUD:
When reading aloud any piece of text, teachers can use a think aloud technique to model how good readers continually ask themselves questions before, during, and after reading. This technique can be thoughtfully planned ahead before implementing, but is also effective to demonstrate often with any piece of text read aloud in class.
2. PICTURE WALK & RECORD:
Either use pictures from the text, or find relevant photographs on the topic, to use for students to generate questions. This helps students set a purpose for reading with authentic questions. It allows them to hear and learn from their peers as well, creating a collaborative and free space for learning to take place.
3. STICKY NOTES/MARGINS:
Before, during, and after reading, encourage students to generate their own questions. They can record their questions in the margins on a printed text, or on sticky notes.
Teachers can also have students place these questions onto a collaborative anchor chart. They can be left as is, or sorted through a class discussion into specific categories, such as:
- “Thin”, factual questions vs. “Thick”, inferential questions.
- The 4 QAR categories (see more on this strategy below): In the Text (Right There, Think & Search) vs. In My Head (Author & Me, On My Own)
One way students can record their own thinking on sticky notes is using these reading strategy bookmarks. The front side is a reference for the reading strategy and the backside is where students record their thinking.
4. INDEPENDENT READING RESPONSE:
Offering multiple ways that students use reading strategies independently can keep students engaged and help reach the many types of learners in a classroom. Besides the sticky-notes strategy above, graphic organizers can be a very powerful tool for students to use while reading fiction or nonfiction.
Below is also an example of an asking questions reading comprehension strategy craft. It is similar to a traditional graphic organizer, but the format reaches hands-on learners.
5. QAR STRATEGY:
Question-Answer Relationships (QAR) is a research-based strategy developed by literacy and reading expert, Taffy Rafael. Its purpose is to help students become active and strategic readers. Students learn the different types of questions that they can either ask themselves as they read, or be asked by a teacher/on an assessment. This helps students become more comfortable with locating necessary information to answer any question that they have or that has been posed to them.
QAR breaks down questions into 4 categories:
In the Text:
1. Right There
2. Think & Search
In My Head:
1. Author & Me
2. On My Own
Understanding question-answer relationships teaches students what types of thinking is required to answer different levels and types of questions. With QAR, students practice generating and answering questions that can be found directly in the text, interacting with the text, or independent of the text. While reading independently or in small groups, students can record their questions for each category on sticky notes. These could be used for a class anchor chart, or for their own record (such as using the interactive reading strategies bookmarks seen below).
They can also independently record their QAR questions directly into reader’s notebooks, or into a graphic organizer like the ones seen below (traditional or lift the flap).